Leanne Barrett: Watercolour Paper - What Side Do I Paint On?

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Watercolour Paper - What Side Do I Paint On?

Which side of watercolour paper do I paint on?
As I pulled out a huge sheet of watercolour paper (size A2) I wondered what side do I paint on? Is there a right and wrong side? 

I looked at the paper and the answer wasn't obvious. I knew that my cold pressed watercolour paper had a rough side and a smoother side but what about hot pressed watercolour paper?

So off to google I went.

First, I wondered about watermarks on paper. Using my light box I discovered that 1 of my 3 pieces of paper had a watermark. Then as I read more I found out that this is not necessarily an indicator of the 'right' side. 

Secondly, I discovered that sometimes the page that is on the top of a pad or block of watercolour paper is not necessarily the 'right' side either.

In fact what I discovered was very freeing. It does not matter what side you paint on. There is no 'right' or 'wrong' side of watercolour paper

Why?
  • The paper tooth changes how watercolour paint moves on the paper surface. Therefore choose the side that allows for the painting technique you want to use eg. bleeding. 
  • Choose the side that  gives you the end result you want eg. I generally don't want the dimples showing on my illustrations, so I want to use the smoothest side, plus I find smooth paper easier to scan and edit when wanting to print images onto cards.
  • Select either side of hot pressed paper to paint on because often there is little difference to the texture between the surfaces. 
  • You can always do a test paint of both sides to see which side you have a preference to paint on.
Jargon of Watercolour paper;
  • tooth- texture, smoothness
  • texture - smooth or rough
  • felt side - the top side, front, 'right' side, often more random texture - the rougher side 
  • wire side - mould side, back, the opposite side to the felt side, often more regular - the smoother side
  • not - cold pressed paper

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